Classes for students at Strother Elementary School will be held inside of a large portable trailer. 

In April 2019, Phillip Dunson, 45, allegedly broke in to the elementary school early in the morning, poured gasoline and started a fire. Security cameras caught the entire incident, even the moment the suspect caught his pantleg on fire.

With classes scheduled to start Thursday, August 15 teachers spent the day getting their makeshift classrooms prepared for the big day.

“Is defiantly one of the most interesting summers of teaching,” said 5th grade teacher Charity Dillon.

Power was turned on to the portable trailer Monday, giving teachers nearly 24 hours to prepare their room for a Tuesday open house.

While administrator’s focus on security, teachers are working on preparing a space that students deserve.

“It is the stuff on the walls, it’s somewhere for them (students) to put their stuff,” said Dillon. “It’s just normal to them and I think that it is really important for me that if they don't have that at home, they will have it here.”

Restoration continues on the existing elementary school building. The building has been completely stripped of drywall as crews cleaned each individual metal stud. Crews were on scene Wednesday, August 14 installing HVAC units.

The biggest challenge for crews has been bringing the older building up to current code.

“It has to have sprinkler systems and stuff put in place and we need to have the fire marshal to ‘OK’ those plans, and then they will start the reconstruction on the building,” said Mechelle Johnson, Principal of Strother Elementary School. “It is a little bit of a process, but it is worth the wait.”

District officials said finding a portable trailer was a challenge. Many are in use following statewide flooding and active wildfires.

As final touches are made, a sense of pride spreads throughout the halls.

“I hope that they (students) learn that hate doesn’t win,” said Dillon. “Bad things do happen, but the good always overcomes.”

It is unclear when the original building will reopen. District officials estimate it will be sometime around Christmas.

Dunson remains in Seminole County Jail on arson and breaking and entering charges. A judge set Dunson’s bond at $250,000.